In 1975, local brass teachers found there wasn't enough children or instruments at any one school to form a brass band, however this could be achieved by bringing together children from different schools. To meet this demand, Irvine Youth Band was formed with the co-operation of the education department. The band had no funds, but with the support of parents, it was able to play a small part in the community. Gradually through undertaking to play at various functions, support for Irvine Youth Band started to grow.
Irvine Youth Band had achieved it’s initial purpose of creating an environment where individual students learning to play brass instruments could come together and play as a band. All of the instruments used by the band belonged to the education department and children leaving school had to hand back their instruments and relinquish their positions in the band.
In 1982, Chic Keenan took over as musical director of the band and membership began to increase as did the committee. Also at this time, Archie Rowan had left the Dreghorn Youth Band, and it was agreed by the parent’s committee’s that the two youth bands would rehearse together creating a huge band of around 45 members.
Only a year later the band started to compete in Scottish competitions and by the end of that year had taken 1st place in the 4th Section at the Whitburn Invitational Contest. Here are some of the early performances from that contest in 1984. The average age of the competing band on stage that day was only 17! We happen to have players still in the band today who performed in that very contest, Kirsty Stephen, Heather Dunlop and Alister Cush.
Irvine & Dreghorn Youth Band
Whitburn 1984 - Part 1
Irvine & Dreghorn Youth Band
Whitburn 1984 - Part 2
1984 was a very busy year for the band, they had continued competition success, winning their sections in 4 different contests and also took part in 40 engagements, one of which was a concert to a full house in the Magnum Theatre.The band also travelled overseas for the first time to Dublin and the people of Donaghmede enjoyed having the band there to perform.
1985 saw the band continue their winning streak, taking the 4th Section titles in Motherwell, Aberdeen and Paisley. The band became 4th Section Scottish Champions and went on to represent Scotland at the National Championships. This saw promotion to the 3rd Section and in 1987 the band was placed 2nd at the Scottish Championships, ensuring another trip to London to compete in the National Finals.
As of the 1st of January 1988, the two youth band’s formally merged – and were now known as Irvine and Dreghorn Brass Band. The newly named band went on to win five awards at the Aberdeen Open Contest, including Best Band, Best Entertainment and Best Section Two Band.
In the early 90’s Chic Keenan left the band and John Smilie, another local brass teacher took over the role of Musical Director. This period of change saw many band members leave to go to University, start new jobs and others get married and start families. In March 1996, Robin Thompson took over the conductor’s role and the band began to gain confidence again and rebuild winning the 3rd section prize at the Forth Valley Contest and coming 2nd in the area championships.
In 1997 the band were successfully awarded a Lottery Grant which saw the purchase of 25 much needed new instruments, this was made possible by the hard work of the band and supporters. The next year the band gained promotion to the second section and finished 3rd at the Nationals Finals with Raymond Tennant. Clearly those new instrument did the trick!
1999 saw Robin Thompson relinquish his position as Musical Director but he continued be involved with the band playing cornet. John Boax took up the role of conductor and saw the band to continued success winning the best 2nd Section Prize at the Land O’ Burns Contest and 4th Place in the Scottish Championships. At this time the ‘B’ Band and Junior band were reformed.
From 2005 to 2009 David McKellar took up the baton, bringing many years of top level experience to the band. Subsequently, the band gained 2nd place in the 4th Section area contest and took another trip down to the National Finals. As well as competing every year at the Scottish Championships, the band also takes part in local annual entertainment contests including the Land O’Burns and Borders Competitions.
In 2010, John Boax returned the position of Musical Director and band placed 2nd in that year’s 3rd section Scottish Championships.
2012 saw the exciting development of a third-tier to the organisation, the formation of the ‘Brasslets’. They have since competed at the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championships and continue to go from strength to strength.
In July 2014 the band performed in two prestigious gigs. Firstly, to royalty at the opening of the walled garden at Dumfries House where the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla were all in attendance. Next, the band entertained the world’s top sportsmen and women, marching and performing at the Athlete’s Village as part of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Later that year the band gained its most successful result at the Border’s contest, coming 3rd with conductor Scott Kerr.
In 2015, the band saw change again with the arrival of our current conductor, Helen Douthwaite-Teasdale. The band came 2nd at the Scottish Championships and went on to compete at Cheltenham in the September 2015. The band continue to play at a variety of local events, contests and concerts and hope to see more success in 2017.